There are five elements in the classical system of acupuncture. Each element has a primary color associated with it. The five elements are Metal (white), Water (blue/black), Wood (green), Fire (red), and Earth (yellow). The colors have an energetic property to them beyond just the wavelength of light. Each color is associated with the energetic movement of its corresponding element and speaks of the balance or imbalance of that energy. In harmony all five colors are present to the same degree. Each person has all five colors, however the one or two colors that predominate speak to the imbalances in that person’s energy.

Seeing the colors is best done by the use of “soft eyes” or a slightly unfocused gaze. Looking out of the corner of the eye or indirect glances assist in the seeing of color in the mode. The acupuncturist’s gaze must be receptive in order to effectively see the colors of the elements on a person’s face. Colors can be seen on or just off the skin of the face, especially around the temples, eyes, and mouth. They are not to be confused with the actual color of the person’s skin. A dark complexion can still manifest the color white and an albino can manifest blue/black.

The range that these colors present is extremely wide. For example blue can range from a pale, sky blue to inky blue/black, while yellow can manifest from a cream color to the brightest orange/yellow that is almost to red. Since it is often difficult to distinguish some colors from one another on the face there is a general consensus that specific color tones correspond to the element. Green is the dark color of grass (to distinguish from a yellow/green); yellow is more in the range of orange or even light brown soil; white is a glistening, shimmering color; red is rosy and lack of red is a lack of that rosy color—more of a dull, ashen hue; and blue is related to black, it is the presence of darkness.

Another factor related to color in the five element model is the person’s color preference. For example, someone with an imbalance in the fire element might surround himself with the color red, or might have a strong aversion to that color. Any intense reaction to a specific color is worthy of looking more closely to the energetics and correspondences of that element in the person’s life and health.

The color white is associated with the element of metal. It is found at the level of the surface of the skin. It is a solid, unchangeable color, like talcum powder/flour/clown-white dusted or painted on the face, obscuring the flesh and blood underneath. The color is even from chin to temple and is usually matte finish. The white of metal is a mixing of all colors, it is like cleaned bones, and it is the color of death. Metal is associated with the season of autumn and the emotion of grief as well as respect.
The officials of the metal element are the lungs and large intestine. The lungs are responsible for providing rhythmic order and taking in pure chi. The lungs give quality and brilliance to life. The large intestine removes impurities, leaving purity and brilliance.
White is the color that signifies purity.

The color blue is associated with the element of water. It is found at the level of the aura, if you look too closely at the face you will miss it. Like a pointillistic painting it is made up of a myriad of different colors but giving the overall impression of a blue hue. Blue can look dark like charcoal, more dirty, more purple, more muddy like sandy water or clearer (any shade that water can assume with different components or in different lights). The color is constantly changing and flickering. Water is associated with the season of winter and the emotion of fear as well as unknowing.
The officials of the water element are the kidneys and bladder. The kidneys are responsible for the creation of power and controlling the fluids in the body. The bladder is responsible for the storage of fluids and the transformation of chi, the giving out of power.
Blue is the color that signifies unknowing.

The color green is associated with the element of wood. It is found off the face. The most luminescent color, and the strongest (as the furthest off the face). Most visible off the lines of the face as the person is animated, rather than as a constant. It there is anger, there may be red spreading upward (a livid orange-red hue). The color can be overall darker, like olive, or more acid. Wood is associated with the season of spring and the emotion of anger as well as vision/creativity.
The officials of the wood element are the liver and gall bladder. The liver is responsible for planning and creativity. The gall bladder is responsible for distinctions and decision-making.
Green is the color that signifies growth.

The color red is associated with the element of fire. It is found at the level of the blood. The blood infuses into the face and gathers there (red); a purple-red, like menstrual blood or fresh meat. The blood is drained from the face, appearing at best pink like over-cooked meat or at worst gray like old meat (lack of red). When animated, the blood rises back upwards, giving a pink or blue-red appearance, but quickly falls away. Fire is associated with the season of summer and the emotion of joy and happiness as well as warmth and partnership.
The officials of the fire element are the heart, heart protector, small intestine, and triple energizer or three heater. The heart is responsible for the order in the body as well as the radiance of spirits. Heart protector is protects the heart from injuries (both physical and emotional) as well as being responsible for joy and elation. The small intestine is responsible for sorting the pure from the impure, both physically and non-materially, as well as for receiving and making things thrive. The triple energizer is responsible for the communication network among the fire officials and the balance and harmony of the body as well as the regulation of fluids in the body.
Red is the color that signifies warmth and connection.

The color yellow is associated with the element of earth. It is found at the level of the flesh and the direction is the center to periphery. There is more concentration of color in the center of the face (under the eyes, on the cheeks and nose and chin). Like fruit, the color ripens unevenly and in varying shades, so there can be blotches or red/yellow/green/purple/brown/rust, etc. The color can be more pale and unripe, like a green banana, or more flushed and ruddy, like an appetizing mango. When animated, the color deepens in the middle of the face then spreads outward. Earth is associated with the season of late summer (the time of the harvest) and the emotion of sympathy as well as nourishment and thoughtfulness.
The officials of the earth element are the spleen and stomach. Together they are responsible for the rotting and ripening of foods in the digestive system. The stomach provides physical nourishment as well as the assimilation of ideas. The spleen distributes and transports throughout the body as well as bringing the seeds of the spirit to germination.
Yellow is the color that signifies comfort and nurturing.

Author's Bio: 

I graduated from Traditional Acupuncture Institute with a master's degree in acupuncture. Tai Sophia Institute (formerly Traditional Acupuncture Institute) was the first accredited acupuncture program in the United States. I am a member of the faculty of the acupuncture program at Tai Sophia.

I also hold a bachelor's degree in psychology and have worked with developmentally challenged individuals. I spent over 8 years teaching martial arts and managing a martial arts school. I have been practicing a Japanese martial art for over 20 years and hold a 3rd degree black belt.

In addition, I recently completed my M.A. degree in Applied Healing Arts from Tai Sophia. The work I did in that program has fostered my interest in and ability to develop a healing relationship with each patient.

I am the co-author of two books and have authored numerous articles on history, philosophy and psychology as well as acupuncture and energy healing. Learning and studying new ideas and acupuncture techniques are a very important part of my life.

I am dedicated to providing a clear approach to treatment for people who are seeking partnership in their healing.